About once every three months the rumors start flying again about a Sprint/T-Mobile merger. For those of you who follow phones, businesses, or finances you know that Sprint had been on a loosing streak when it comes to customers. Even the might Android phones (HTC Hero, Samsung Moment) didn’t seem to be able to stop the flow of customers away from Sprint. So Sprint changed their tactics, improved customer service and picked up a “flagship” phone in the HTC Evo. People stopped and took notice. For the first time in a long while, people stood in line and actually waited on back orders for a Sprint device. That year their customer service rating finally went up (http://goo.gl/sVQaI). Sprint plans averaged about $69 for the all you can eat data, voice package, and things started looking forward.
Right about then Verizon decided that the Android push was the way to go as well and it became very clear who had the better marketing dollars. Going from “this is a cute little Android guy flying around”, to “DROIIDDDD” dressed in black metalic armor made it easy to see who was taking things more seriously. Fortunately for Sprint, Verizon’s plans are still higher priced and Evos and Samsung Galaxys were back in stock. Sprint gained more customers than it lossed for the first time in three years! (http://goo.gl/hTIBN) So Verizon goes one better and inks a deal with Apple giving it the iPhone on top of its already impressive Android lineup. (Somewhere along the line Windows Phone 7 enters the game too, but as of yet has not made a difference to any carrier.) Meanwhile during the oft ignored battle that Sprint is waging to catch up, Verizon is moving further ahead while AT&T is starting to slip backwards. Sprint sees a chance to leap from number three to number two if it plays its cards right, but the leap will take a very strong pair of legs. T-Mobile sits at the number four spot and quietly rolls out LTE (the infamous 4G frequency) to its customers across the United States. Internally their thoughts were to overtake the number three spot (Sprint) by the year 2015, but recent reports show “T-Mobile USA lost 318,00 subscribers in the fourth quarter. ” (http://goo.gl/dQzVw) But if the two companies merged (assuming everything stayed the same and the birds continued to sing) they would still only be number two in the US market (with a combined subscriber number around 84 million vs AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which have 95.5 million and 94.1 million subscribers, respectively (http://goo.gl/TAI6E). Then there is the whole CDMA (Sprint) not playing nice with GSM (T-Mobile) technology. Meaning most current phones from either company would not work on the others network. Add to it the WiMax (Sprint) and LTE (T-Mobile) 4G networks not being compatible it brings even more of a divide between the two. It would turn into a larger scale Nextel thing all over again.
The only hope would be Sprint joining the rest of the networks in using LTE and pushing all future phones from both companies towards that spectrum. But if they are outside of an LTE area and have to rely on 3G or even 2G…the question still remains onto which network would they fall over? But all of this worry is for nothing since the real hurdle is the antitrust regulators. Sprint and T-Mobile are the closest in prices and with those two merged there would be no doubt that their plans would increase. For those of you who don’t believe me, how many of you bought into the $10 extra for 4G with Sprint even if you aren’t in a 4G area speech? Now picture another $10 to help extend the LTE/WiMax footprint. In the long run, the merger looks like a good thing…for Verizon
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